Facebook as Prosthesis

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Facebook as Prosthesis by Ruth Noakes 

(snippet from from my dissertation when I was a student in London)
Facebook, the social networking website, was launched in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Hughes and Dustin Moskovitz from their dormitory room at Harvard, and within just two years it had twelve million users, which increased exponentially in 2008 with sixty-seven million users, and over fourteen million photos are uploaded daily[i]. Social networks can be seen to give people some control over projecting perceptions of themselves, and affirming current ideas of what the self consists of; ‘online social networks free us, in some sense, from the requirements of “real world” circumstances and permit us to try out various self conceptions to find ones that fit with what we would like to be’[ii]. Concedingly, Waters claims that ‘for the posthuman, there is no autonomous self that is given, because the self can only be made’[iii]

As a result of my research methodologies I was able to gather up to date, and currently relevant information to aid my case study. Therefore I needed a current media and technology example to illustrate my findings, and decided that the most prominent case within my research thus far was Facebook, because it remains somewhat mysterious and ever changing. I deem that Facebook acts as an interface, which enables common ground for people from a wide range of age groups and social backgrounds, and having gathered primary information from my participant observation, it seemed logical that this area deserved more focus and could aid me in answering the initial research question; to what extent can technology be seen as an extension of the human body or mind. If Facebook can be deemed a form of prosthesis to the human, then perhaps the same can be applied to other technologies.

Using the perspective gathered from having my own Facebook account, this primary research and participatory element should grant an accurate and detailed view of the current uses of Facebook, and the extent to which people allow it to represent them. However, I shall use other contemporary examples of human and machine interactivity to demonstrate how the ‘prosthetic impulse’[iv] affects modern society as a whole as well as in terms of individual identity.

From the detached yet directly involved perspective of my Facebook page, I was able to see why members of the focus groups I conducted spoke of how addictive they found it, and why going without technology was often mostly difficut because of the inability to connect with friends on Facebook. The Facebook ‘news feed’ updates automatically and perpetually, filling with status updates posted by my ‘friends’, including what their current actions are, who they are with, or where they are, this can be seen as ‘contributing to the creation of a permanent present whose intense pace knows no tomorrow’[v], and relates to Heidegger’s ‘presencing’ of what is present[vi], because the constant bringing forth of information, regardless of its purpose, holds meaning, a pre-existing need to share. Virilio is concerned with this speed, and need for constant information and entertainment, and deems that the distorted ‘time span is destroying the rhythms of a society which has become more and more debased’[vii]. If society is thus debased and flattened by technology, this seems to contradict the act of extending or adding prosthesis to the human self; rather Virilio seems to hint at the destruction of life as we know it.

Figure 1, (Permission from Ruairi Glynn) ‘Dancers 2008’ Emergencia Exhibition, Itau Cultural, Sao Paulo Brazil 2008.

The relation between biological matter and immaterial thought and meaning, which Merleau-Ponty explores, emphasises that our actions are not merely for survival, but shift to a figurative meaning that ‘manifests’ through bodies ‘a core of new significance: this is true of motor habits such as dancing’[viii]. Using Merleau-Ponty’s perspective, I deduce that dancing could be described as a secondary action, unnecessary for survival but elaborated or extended from our inner thoughts as a means of perceiving the outer world. A contemporary example that illustrates this ‘new significance’ is Ruairi Glynn’s ‘Performative Ecology’ project ‘Dancers 2008’[ix], as shown above in Figure 1. The Dancers, or robots, are built to intuitively react to human facial expressions, dancing in accordance to the emotions they detect through facial recognition software. They have the power to learn new dance routines as well as teaching other Dancers the movements they found to be most successful in inciting response from the human crowd. The Dancers are granted a significant degree of autonomy and intuition, yet remain dependent upon human attention, and reactive to human emotions that they cannot ever feel themselves. Similarly, Facebook seems to grow in its autonomy, as it is programmed to intuitively detect a user’s preferences; I discovered that whatever you type is detected by Facebook, which then proceeds to place advertisements on the home page, related to your words. Facebook encourages you to click ‘like’ on brand pages, and asks you to engage in polls determining your response to certain products. Facebook institutionalises culture to an extent; marketing ploys tell us to invite more friends, to perpetuate the Facebook brand. Facebook is about profit, but beneath the material profit lays meaning, of which Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger would encourage the exploration.

Niedzviecki states that ‘from Facebook to WebCams to blogs to Reality TV we are actively involved in trading our privacy for community, shared meaning’[x]; this was also the concession I gained during the focus group methodology. On the most part the older age groups claimed to use Facebook for business reasons or nostalgia, for example, some claimed it was to reconnect with lost friends or family, and reminisce on the past, whereas the younger age groups all emphasised the uses of Facebook as being for plan making, current updates and learning what events were happening in the future.

Figure 2, Dancers 2008, courtesy of Ruairi Glynn.

What if technology has created a secondary or tertiary impulse, which I term as one that is not primary to survival, and has thus subverted our nature? During my participatory observation I noticed that mobile phones, such as the iPhone, encourage the use of Facebook through an application that is just one button click away, and introduced a new feature whereby you can ‘check-in’ to locations. Firsthand I observed, on the news feed, a person check-in at location tagged as their home, and also tagged was the person’s girlfriend. I was shocked that someone would go to the extent of revealing their home’s location on the Internet, but also including a link to the Facebook page of their girlfriend, and publicising such a seemingly private or intimate occasion. This would indeed support the notion of extending our sense of sharing, the Internet representing an interface where sharing too much matters less than it would if it were done face-to-face, and is exemplary of Niedzviecki’s term ‘overshare’. His book ‘The Peep Diaries’, describes our recently evolved ‘Peep Culture’, where we often interact more through machines than directly, essentially spy on others, and allow ourselves to be spied upon by ‘oversharing’ personal information via networking websites; ‘Apple released the iPhone 3G, and global capitalism teetered…yet that single ungainly word, overshare, may prove to be more significant’ for we ‘ushered in a new era: the Era of Peep Culture’[xi].

But perhaps the impulse to over-share is not one of prosthesis, and instead needs a new metaphor more befitting to its context. In ‘The Prosthetic Impulse’, Sobchack recognises Kurzman’s concern regarding the use of prosthesis as a metaphor in modern anthropology[xii]. Kurzman, who is an amputee deems that theorists situate an issue, then retroactively define it using prosthesis and artificial limbs in an attempt to expand ethnographic material, and emphasises that actually it is a reductive term when thus removed from context[xiii]. I am not entirely in agreement with this, because I think a word can be reconceptualised, granted new meaning or context, without having to change the word itself. Facebook certainly extends awareness in terms of current occurrences; as a participant observer I began to learn things about my ‘friends’ which I would not otherwise have known, or would ever before have had the desire to know. Perhaps Facebook is exemplary of the desire to transcend corporeality[xiv] in the paradoxical fashion Grosz demonstrated, and is powered by our desire to share and escape into voyeuristic digital interface. From a posthuman understanding, and the admission of dependency, and interactivity on the part of my focus group members, it seems likely that Facebook acts as a form of prosthesis, in that it offers functions the body could not attain alone.

References and Sources below:
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Life as a Care Giver

Auguste Deter. Alois Alzheimer's patient in No...

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Firstly, I haven’t been doing this long. But I spent the past few months completing my training, with certificates in First Aid, Health & Safety, Movement & Handling etc. Then I began my mentoring, so I am still not “flying solo”, but I learn from watching/helping the people whom have been carers for much longer.

Today I felt choked up, it was my first time at Mrs Anonymous’s house (Patient confidentiality of course). She has Multiple Sclerosis, and paralysis on one side, meaning she is wheelchair bound and can only use one arm. Not to mention the fact she is 90-something years old, with severe arthritis that curls her toes and fingers into gnarled roots. The discomfort she is constantly in is little eased by medications and prescription creams.

She lives completely alone, with no pets. Pays for her own care, rather than accepting benefits, so perhaps she had a wealthy past. The radio is her friend once we serve her meal and say goodbye, leaving a cup of Earl Grey in the microwave for her like she instructs. She is meticulous, extremely specific in what she wants, even where you place her hairbrush, because this is the only control or power she has left. It’s heartbreaking. Reminds me of my grandmother somewhat, which was the main reason I wanted to do senior care, except my grandmother has Alzheimer’s, and this lady, Mrs Anonymous, seems mentally sharp despite the M.S. But isn’t that the worst part? To be mentally alert but trapped in a crippled body, like a butterfly with broken wings.

Why am I writing this post? I guess I just wanted to give you a glimpse into what caring is really about, and would ask anyone whose grandparents are still alive, to please visit them, take care of them. No one should have to be alone like Mrs Anonymous.

Aloe can help survival during severe blood loss?

Heart diagram with labels in English. Blue com...

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Just found one of my older LiveJournal posts, it was just a DRAFT of thoughts:

Jan. 16th, 2010 at 6:41 PM

Aloe can help survival during severe blood loss?
www.nationalreviewofmedicine.com/issue/2004_09_15/clinical11_16.html

I initially searched into this mainly because I was wondering whether panic/increased heart rate sped up blood flow (and therefore blood loss), (and therefore one’s demise), OR, does the quickened blood flow aid the situation, seeing as the heart’s natural response to blood loss is to speed up and release adrenaline as a reaction to lower available oxygen and/or volume of blood itself. Does speeding up of heart rate and blood flow enable the remaining oxygen to be distributed in a way that attempts to simulate the regular amounts.

It is mentioned that aloe increases circulation, and the rats that were injected with it during severe blood loss lived longer than rats that were injected with regular saline. However, the improved circulatory function does pose the risk of obstructing coagulation. Therefore aloe could be useful to prolong a patient’s life, whilst further treatment/aid/procedures are taken to stem the blood flow, or a transfusion is made.

So, is the natural rush of adrenaline, which is automatic in the situation of severe blood loss, helpful? Or is it an inevitable symptom, induced by hemorrhagic shock, which essentially speeds up one’s demise?

Heightened heart rate and blood flow BUT lower blood pressure.

Heightened
blood flow but lower oxygen and blood volume.

If the heart slowed dramatically rather than speeding dramatically once heavy blood loss is induced, the lowered blood pressure would have an intensified impact…therefore it could be theorised that the over-compensation the heart makes in speeding faster is an attempt to normalise the body and pump oxygen to the parts that need it most.

HOWEVER, with wounds, such as those on major arteries, like the jugular, the heavier blood flow would result in a quicker death.

(Original post can be seen here: LiveJournal)

Social networking makes you a liar?


Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

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Social networking devices, such as Twitter and Facebook, are a daily part of people’s routines, which makes me wonder: how does it affect your honesty? Integrating your Facebook, blog, Twitter account, with all of your other social networking profiles (which we are all encouraged to do), means that we are more easily traceable across the Internet.

So, if someone turns down an invite to that “really cool block party” tonight because they’re “poorly in bed”, then later tweets about what a good time they are having somewhere else, the person who invited them to that block party immediately knows it was a lie. If you tell your boss you’re sick, forget you have them on your friends list, then you update your Facebook status about what a great time you’re having at Thorpe Park, you are immediately busted. Because of this, the ease of obtaining information, anyone with common sense knows either to hide their lies, or elaborate on the truth.

Even I have been caught out before, and I like to think I’m a bit savvier than that. I was never stupid enough to bad-mouth my previous boss anywhere on the Internet, or anything on parr with that. Mine was simple, I wasn’t answering someone’s calls or texts, but was active online, this lead them to realise I wasn’t too busy, or asleep, it meant I just didn’t want to contact them. But technically I never lied to them, I just ignored. Is that really so bad? Just because I want to reply to a few things online, doesn’t mean I want to answer a phone call right now.

I think it’s perfectly acceptable to tell someone truthfully that I’ve been too busy to do a certain thing, but also don’t care if they Internet stalk me and find out I’m not too busy to send a quick tweet or reply to a comment on Facebook. I mean, who do people think they are, the cyber police? I try to always be honest, so if I belatedly reply to an email, I don’t excuse it with “I’ve been too busy” (unless that’s the truth), usually it’s just a case of wanting to be in the right mind-state or focus to reply adequately rather than rushing it before my daily film/TV fix. I could try hard to please everybody, reply with super-quick insincere paragraphs, but that would be false.

I realise this post makes me sound arrogant, in reality I don’t receive tonnes of phone calls, or have “fans” monitoring my online activity to see if I haven’t replied in 0.02 seconds, but I think we all know a couple of people who get touchy about your online whereabouts, and how it relates to their own ego. My point is that, despite the Internet creating the need to sometimes lie and say we’re just too busy, rather than “I don’t want to talk to you right now”, it also forces us to avoid blatant lies that would get us in trouble.

I just think we shouldn’t have to lie, it should be acceptable to be in the mood to tweet or update, but be too busy/not in the mood to reply to a certain email, answer a phone call, or update something else at that same time.

That leaves me with a couple of questions: 1) Has anyone ever queried you about your online activity versus the real world? 2) Have you ever been caught out in an online lie? 3) When you make excuses to people, are they genuine? 4) To what extent are you honest online?

I’m back!

Tasmanian Devil (Looney Tunes)

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Well, kind of. Been very busy since passing my Medical Exam. Did more training in my Care Giver healthcare job, so now have certification in Health & Safety, First Aid, and Movement & Handling, among other things. Which is pretty cool.

I’m still very busy, as there’s much to sort out. But as of today I’ll be replying to comments you guys have left, catching up on reading my blog roll people, and generally embracing WordPress again.

Stay tuned, looney tuned! :)

I killed your partner, so The Tournament begins

After watching The Tournament(2009) I am left mostly unaffected. But the film wasn’t trying to be emotionally powerful, so I suppose this near impartiality is acceptable.

It’s what you expect an average gun-slinging assassin movie to be; without any of the awesomeness the Kill Bill movies had, but with a prompt pacing, vendettas, and a slight twist. Despite being predictable, and not exceeding any expectations, it was nicely cast, acceptably made, and there were no drastic errors.

DON’T watch if you’re looking for something stylistically new, emotionally/intellectually engaging, or rivetting enough to hold you on the edge of your seat.

DO watch if you appreciate guns, lots of them, and explosions. Also if you’re familiar with The Vampire Diaries, you would be pleased to know that Ian Somerhalder plays an assassin called Miles Slade. I do genuinely think he’s a really good actor, and of course Kelly Hu and Robert Carlyle are great.

Erm dude, where’s your skin? Cabin Fever 2 and American Movie

American Movie

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Cabin Fever 2 was just what I expected; boring, amateur, and dragged on too long. That having been said, the animation/cartoon snippets in the title sequence and at the end were very good. I also liked the gore, and enjoy seeing bratty High School teens die (who doesn’t?).

The best part by far was Mark Borchardt as Herman the cab driver. At first I thought I was going mad imagining that it was him, but no it’s definitely Borchardt from American Movie (you have to see it if you haven’t already, truly one of the most hilarious films).

In Cabin Fever 2 he just basically plays himself, he is such a character in reality. “Dude” being the most heavily used word in his vocabulary. He belongs in way more movies, don’t you think?

She got a blog at last!

Hands in the air - in concert

Image by marfis75 via Flickr

http://geminibe.wordpress.com

My old school friend Rebecca (more commonly referred to as Bexy) finally got herself a blog. I say this not just as her friend; her writing is really easy to absorb, uplifting, and above all genuine. She’s really one of the most decent people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. So it’s cool to know that even though we live far away, and hardly see each other anymore, I can stay connected to her on here. I’m really excited to see her next post, her first is so rich and full of free thought.

So, to my very few readers, and even fewer commenters, go and check her out! You won’t regret it.

Are you sick?

Music at Camden Market [I love London]

Image by sara.musico via Flickr

Well, so are the rest of us. Everyone seems to be ill at the moment. My cure this weekend has been lots of alcohol, going to Camden with my boyfriend, and sleazy rock’n’roll. I’m exhausted, moderately down, and dreading my upcoming clinical aptitude exam. This week is going to be one tough week of study study study. But nothing I can do will take away the feeling of uselessness and nerves wracked up like badly mixed drugs in my veins. I’ll most likely delete this post before the day is done.

You think Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is just hype?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

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I deliberately resisted reading the whole book before watching; I read enough chapters to love the book, but avoid clouding my judgement of the film. I was hoping for another Swedish gem, something I could enjoy as much as I loved Let The Right One In (not the remake).

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (“Män som hatar kvinnor“), was directed by Niels Arden Oplev and based on Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. I loved the story telling within the film, the tale itself is irresistible, as is the heroine Lisbeth Salander (played by Noomi Rapace). But again that is mainly credit to the book, not necessarily the filmmakers.

I admit the film was atmospheric, held my attention, and the story seduced me. But some chunks of the tale felt like they were included only to appease the book’s fans. For example, we probably didn’t need such routine intervals of Lisbeth’s past. Her past is vital of course, it grants context, but so much of it added nothing to the plot, and felt like it was there just to break the pacing between sub-plot and main-plot.

We could have instead been teased with briefer hints and flashes to her past. But I suppose they wanted to find a balance between her tortured past and tortured present. It felt too prescribed, too calculative, trying too hard to force us to see everything of what she is, rather than letting us interpret. I suppose I found it mildly patronising.

I was not offended by the more graphic scenes, which I won’t reveal as I don’t like spoilers. I actually liked the fact that she was portrayed as a strong, independent female. Her dynamic with the journalist Mikael Blomkvist (played by Michael Nyqvist) was effective, and there wasn’t anything startling wrong with the film. It just wasn’t everything I had hoped for.

I should refer back to the film I mentioned before. Hoyte Van Hoytema was responsible for the cinematography in Let the Right One In, his style is subtle but irresistible. Whereas The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, despite not being poorly filmed, certainly had no distinctive style or anything visually new to offer.

I think The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is living proof that the books are always better than the film. But I am glad they made it into a film, because it means more people are encouraged to read the books, which I have found to be excellent. I would recommend watching this film, but don’t do so if you’re expecting something groundbreaking or revolutionary.

Eat shit? The Human Centipede

Promotional poster for The Human Centipede (Fi...

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One of my best friends, Marie, stayed over this week and watched The Human Centipede (directed by
Tom Six) with me.

The worst (best) part was Dr Heiter, played by Dieter Laser. He was truly creepy looking, and his acting made you feel like perhaps he was this scary in reality too. The film was about his being a surgeon; he used to separate conjoined twins, but then becomes fixated with joining living things.

Naturally, this leads to his ideal of a human centipede, connected by sewing their mouths to each others butts, so that they share one digestive track. Implausible in the long-term, and hilarious, so I was glad when one of the three victims died from infection. That was the most medically accurate part.

The film was not scary, but hilarious. I just couldn’t stop laughing at what idiots the characters are. One of the two female leads had the chance to escape, but hides instead of smashing the window to escape straight away. And the Japanese guy, played by Akihiro Kitamura, who is also a captive, actually stabs Dr Heiter with a scalpel, but only in the foot and leg. He goes crazy and bites him, but instead of using his chance to kill the crazy Doctor, or knock him unconscious at least, he chooses to just attempt to run away (difficult with two girls surgically attached).

I had no real sympathy for the characters because their survival instincts were poor, I like it when characters truly try their best and are beaten down, but these three were mainly moronic and therefore deserved it. The very few chances they had to escape they wasted completely.

As ridiculous as this film was, it’s worth watching because it’s one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a long time, and wasn’t too badly shot.

The Collector, watching alone in the dark :(

About to watch it, then will fill in a review here.

What’s the most expensive object you’ve ever touched?

Moche Ear Ornaments. 1-800 AD. Larco Museum Co...

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It has to be an object, not housing or actual money.

I just held a £12,000 ring in my hands, and I’m not sure if it’s the most expensive thing I’ve held. I’ve probably touched more expensive art work or museum pieces, maybe even other jewellery I have forgotten, because none of it is my own.

So, what is the most valuable object you have ever touched or held?

Dear John, sob stories don’t ensure a great movie

Cover of "Dear John (Limited Edition Blu-...

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Despite my reluctance, I just watched Dear John (2010), directed by Lasse Hallström. This is because my friend Katie insisted.

It’s not entirely fair for me to slate the filmmakers just because I did not enjoy it at all. My lack of enjoyment came mainly from the fact that I’m not a stereotypical girl who falls for the lead male every time, or dreams of that kind of thing. I have everything I need in that department. I do like films about love, but they must have something more to offer.

So, aside from getting people to relate to the smushy love scenes, what else does this film have to offer?

Well, my favourite aspect was John’s father, played by Richard Jenkins. He has always had an affinity to play loner roles, and fatherly ones. Six Feet Under, the Television series which ran from 2001-2005, is a good example, with his role as Nathaniel Fisher.

I loved his fragility, it evoked more feeling from me than Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried‘s love scenes ever did. His coin collection made a great metaphor throughout the film, and was like another character.

Sympathy tactics are not enough to make a great movie for me though, it did not change the fact that the film was predictable, relatively shallow, and did not fully convince me. Despite all-round acceptable performances, Richard Jenkins was the only fully convincing part.

My best friend

The girl to the right, Katie Baugh, has been my best friend since primary school. So, since we were 5 years old. I recently bullied her into getting a WordPress blog, because she does all sorts of interesting things.

She’s an actress, and travels around, and is also beautiful, which helps. She hasn’t posted anything yet, but when she does I’ll be posting a link so that the (very few) people who read my blog can check her out.

I won’t give away anymore, because that’s what her blog posts are for. Just wanted to mention her on here. Was so nice catching up with her today, even just for a short while.